During his animation visit to Cambodia the Rector Major visit also briefly the Apostolic Prefecture of Battambang, The prefecture covers an area of 80,430 km² of north-western Cambodia, covering 9 provinces Battambang, Pursat, Kompong Chhnang, Kompong Thom, Siem Reap, Preah Vihear, Oddar Meancheay, Banteay Meanchey and Pailin. The estimated total population in the Prefecture is more than 5 millions and about 8,000 are members of the Catholic Church. The prefecture is subdivided into 27parishes or pastoral areas, and has not even 20 priests altogether. The Catholic communities of Battambang are known for their active faith and dynamism. A strong presence of Jesuit priests contributes also to this characteristics. The statue ‘Mother of Mercy’ inspired by the Bishop is the trade-mark of the Apostolic Prefecture (cf. GNT for the EAO region for the month of January 2016).
In the Apostolic Prefecture of Battambang are located 3 Salesian presences (Poipet – with 2 SDB and two schools in Battambang City entrusted almost completely to our lay mission partners), 1 FMA presence (Battambang City, vocation training and boarding school) and 2 presences of SIHM sisters (near Siem Rap). The local bishop was eager to meet the Rector major to share the joys and challenges of the local Church. Also the major world heritage monument and symbol of Cambodia ‘Angkor Wat’ is located within Battambang Prefecture.
The Prefect Apostolic of Battambang is Mons. Enrique (Kike) Figerado, SJ – a veteran Jesuit missionary with 30 years of experience working for the Cambodian Church, started from the refugee camps in Thailand (1985). Mons. Kike is from the same part of Spain as the Rector Major – from Asturias. Meeting between the Bishop and the Rector Major happen on February 29 in Siem Rap. It was a very good opportunity to understand the dynamics of the young Cambodian Church from the first hand experience.
In the morning hours of March 1, the Rector Major was able to admire the majestic beauty of Angkor Wat and in the afternoon of the same day reached by plane the most southern community of Sihanoukville for his meeting with the Salesians on the following day.